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Tips for Spray Painting Walls and Ceilings

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Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.

Spray painting walls and ceilings is quicker than rolling paint.

Spray painting walls and ceilings is quicker than rolling paint.

Spray Painting Walls With An Airless Sprayer

Spray painting walls and ceilings is a lot faster than using a brush and a roller to paint them. Using a sprayer to paint your walls also eliminates the task of having to climb up and down a ladder to cut-in corners with a brush, and a sprayer produces a smoother finish.

The two minor drawbacks of spray painting indoors are over-spray and paint consumption. Spraying uses more paint, but the time you save using a sprayer is worth the extra paint expense if you want to get your painting project done faster. Spraying is your best option if you're faced with a whole-house painting project that must be finished in a short time frame.

The ideal scenario for indoor spray painting is to spray the rooms before a move-in; when the house is empty. With careful masking, though, spray painting walls in an occupied home is as easy as working in an empty one. Masking doesn't take very long either when you use the right tools.

There are many different types of sprayers available for rent or purchase.

There are many different types of sprayers available for rent or purchase.

The Best Sprayer for Indoor Wall Spray Painting

A quality airless sprayer is all you need to spray paint the walls inside your home. Two good sprayer brands are Graco and Titan. I've mostly used Graco spray equipment, but Titan is good too. Both brands are usually available for rent at the paint store.

Rent an airless sprayer if you only plan to use it one time. Contractor-grade sprayers by Graco or Titan aren't cheap to buy, but major home improvement stores usually sell less expensive models by both brands that are meant for the DIY homeowner. These are fine for occasional use.

I've used my Graco 495 Ultra Max airless sprayer for several years, and I use this sprayer for all of my interior and exterior spray painting. Less expensive Graco models, like the 395 and 390, are excellent sprayers if you need one for more than one project. I also own a Titan 440 Impact, and this is a great little sprayer that can handle multiple painting projects.

A hand masker will save you a lot of time covering walls and windows.

A hand masker will save you a lot of time covering walls and windows.

Masking for Interior Spray Painting

Before spraying paint inside a house, masking is important to protect surfaces not being spray painted. Windows and floors should be covered very carefully. The best tool to use for masking is the 3M hand masker. Don't waste your time masking without one. Using a hand masker is a massive time saver when you need to cover multiple windows and walls.

What you're painting in a room will determine what needs to be masked. I'll explain a few different scenarios and the best way to mask them to make things easier.

Spray Painting Ceilings Only

If the walls are already painted, and you're only painting the ceiling, you'll have to cover them with plastic to keep over-spray off the paint. Masking walls is really easy, using the 3M hand masker I mentioned, equipped with painter's tape and 3M masking film. The best plastic length to use for walls is 99-inches, which is long enough to cover a typical eight-foot wall. These rolls of plastic are sold on the Internet and some major home improvement stores.

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Spray Painting Walls Only

When spraying walls only, you'll have to mask along the ceiling corners, so over-spray from the wall paint doesn't blow up onto the surface. Ceilings are a little more challenging, because you have to mask the ceiling upside down, but all you need is 12-inch masking paper, tape, and a masker. Masking paper is a lot easier to work with upside down on a ceiling than plastic, and the 12-inch paper is wide enough to protect the surface from wall paint overspray.

Spray Painting both the Walls and Ceiling

Spray the walls before the ceiling. Allow the wall paint to fully dry, cover the walls with tape and plastic, and spray the ceiling. Masking walls is a lot easier than masking a ceiling upside down if you were to spray the ceiling before the walls.

What's the Best Tape for Interior Spray Painting?

The painter's tape you choose is very important. The best painter's tape to use for covering windows with plastic is blue tape. If you're covering floors beneath the baseboard you're spraying, green FrogTape is great. Yellow FrogTape is excellent when taping over a delicate surface (expensive wallpaper), or a recently painted surface that might not be fully cured yet.

Choosing the right size tip on your paint sprayer will make your painting job much more efficient.

Choosing the right size tip on your paint sprayer will make your painting job much more efficient.

Using An Airless Sprayer Indoors

After the masking is done, you're ready to start spraying, but first, make sure you're using the right tip size to get the job done faster. I recommend using a Graco sprayer, whether you rent or buy one. I've used them throughout my painting career and they're excellent. With Graco spray tips and tip guards, the RAC 5 (black) and RAC X (blue) are the two options available.

The RAC X (blue) tips and guards cost more money, but they last longer in my experience. Another reason I like using the blue RAC X guards is having the ability to use the green FFLP (fine finish, low pressure) spray tips with them. You cannot use them with the RAC 5 tip guard. These tips produce less overspray.

Airless Spray Tip Sizing for Walls and Ceilings

Most spray tips for airless sprayers, regardless of the brand, include a three-digit number. To determine the spray fan width of a tip, simply multiply the first digit by two. As an example, a 517 spray tip produces a 10-inch spray fan. The second and third digit refers to the orifice size of the tip. The larger the orifice, the greater the amount of atomized paint will come out.

A good tip size to use for spraying walls and ceilings with latex paint is 517. The 10-inch fan this tip produces covers large surfaces fast without throwing too much paint onto the drywall.

Use a Spray Gun Extension Wand

Using a spray gun extension, especially for ceilings, really comes in handy. These screw onto your spray gun to make it easier to reach the ceiling. Extensions also reduce a lot of over-spray because, at a closer range, more paint is being sprayed onto the ceiling than into the air. These also reduce fatigue when spraying walls because you won't have to bend down as much to reach the lower portion.

Back-rolling Walls While Spraying

Drywall that is rough and non-glossy should be rolled as you're spraying the surface, at least for the first coat of paint. Rolling as you spray is important because it pushes paint into the surface of porous drywall for a better finish.

The second coat usually doesn't have to be rolled if the first coat was sprayed thick enough and rolled on evenly. However, rolling both coats is best because sometimes overspray and dust can settle on the surface and create a rough texture. If the drywall feels rough to the touch between coats, you can lightly scuff sand them and spray and roll a final coat.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Matt G.

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